Rajasthan Itinerary: The best of colourful Rajasthan for 10 days
Updated: Jul 2, 2020
Planning to visit Rajasthan soon? Rest assured, it is going to be one of the most unforgettable trips of your life. Follow my travel story of how we spent our 10 days to experience the best of Rajasthan for the inspiration of your journey. I will not guarantee you that this is going to be the best itinerary for Rajasthan that you can find, but I hope this can give you the rough idea of what to expect from your Rajasthan adventure.
Rajasthan is like a storybook India, with the most beautiful landscapes of mountains, deserts and forts. It is like you travel back in time. It is one of the most exciting trips that I ever had with my partner. Rajasthan, aptly known as “Land of Kings” is undoubtedly one of the most colourful and exuberant places that we have been to.
Prior to knowing Edmund, I used to dream myself of visiting India. When I was a law student, I even invited some of my coursemates to visit India, targeting few northern Indian states of Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and of course Rajasthan. Unfortunately, none of my coursemates were interested with the idea and I was a bit wary with the thought of travelling to India alone.
Fast forward few years later, my dream came true. I was able to share one of my dream destinations with my partner. It was my first trip to India and Rajasthan was not disappointing at all!
Before we go further into the itinerary, it is important for ones to know the geography of the place. In term of size, Rajasthan is the biggest state in India. Hence, travelling from one place to another can be time-consuming. As we had only 10 days to spare, with the fact that I hate to rush unnecessarily, we decided to pick the main three highlights of Rajasthan. We skipped the most well-trodden tourist track for first-time visitors to India, typically India’s Golden Triangle route covering Delhi, Agra and Jaipur.
Let us have the first quick list of the 3 main highlights of Rajasthan, with each offers different colour to your trip. Please note that our suggested itinerary is based on our own trip last January 2019, hence practical distribution of time and realistic plan are guaranteed.
First – Jaipur, the Pink City
Second – Jaisalmer, the Golden City
Lastly – Jodhpur, the Blue City
Day 1: Arriving in Jaipur, the getaway to Rajasthan
Jaipur, affectionately the Pink City, is your getaway to Rajasthan. As the biggest city in Rajasthan, Jaipur is a marvel of ancient palaces and forts, busy markets and chaotic streets. It can be overwhelming to some, but I can guarantee you that there are a multitude of jaw-dropping sights to behold!
Most of the international flights arriving and leaving India are scheduled in the evening and at night. I highly recommend spending at least 2 full days in Jaipur.
We took a direct flight from Kuala Lumpur to Jaipur via AirAsia and we landed safely at Jaipur International Airport (JAI) after 5.5 hours of flight journey.
Frankly speaking, the accommodation options in Jaipur are quite poor, especially those within Jaipur’s old city walls and MI Road. The only advantage of staying in both areas is the proximity from the attractions within the old city. After our careful consideration between Bani Park and C-scheme areas, we chose the latter where it is still centrally located with plenty of restaurants and cafes can be found. To strengthen the reason of our choice, you still need taking a ride via Uber or Ola to reach many attractions of Jaipur where most of it are not accessible by foot. We stayed at The Designer's Studio, a chic and stylish Airbnb property owned by a family of artists.
Day 2: Exploring the old city of Jaipur
This will be your first day of exploring Jaipur, consisting all the tourist attractions within the city wall encircling the old city of Jaipur. We took a ride via Uber to The Tattoo Café & Lounge for our breakfast to kickstart our day. The terrace of the cafe offers undoubtedly the best view of Hawa Mahal and the Pink City as well as some other mountains within the vicinity of Jaipur.
If there is one iconic image of the Pink City of Jaipur, Hawa Mahal would be it. Also known as the Palace of Winds, I highly recommend visiting this iconic façade in the early morning to beat the crowd. With the entry fee of INR 200 per person, the entry of the building is not from the front of the façade, but rather from the side road leading to the rear entrance of the structure.
Almost few blocks away, tucked within Tripolia Bazaar and off from the main street lies the City Palace of Jaipur. The suggested duration of visiting this amazing site is 2 to 3 hours. I highly recommend purchasing the Royal Grandeur ticket with the cost of INR 3000 which allows access to several private rooms in Chandra Mahal with a compulsory tour guide.
Not too far from the City Palace of Jaipur, you will be arriving at Jantar Mantar where it is a heaven for astronomy geeks. The best time to visit Jantar Mantar is at noon in which the sun is vertically positioned above you, easier for you to understand the interpretation of the readings of all 19 instruments.
Few streets away at the west tip of Tripolia Bazaar stands a high structure of Iswari Minar Swarga Sal, or simply known as Isarlat Swargasuli Tower. As the tallest structure in Jaipur, this seven-floor tower offers a great vantage point of Jaipur with 360-degree view. The place is surprisingly under the radar of many tourists. We had the whole place to ourselves when we were there.
Take this chance to walk along the streets of the old city of Jaipur. It can be overwhelming to some, with the staring local crowd, the constant spitting, the roaming cows, the constant honking horns, the usual tangled wiring of electricity above you and the local traffic fumes. I could not imagine how busy Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata can be. But again, you are in North India, enjoy and soak yourself to the moment!
Day 3: Exploring the splendid forts and palaces of Jaipur
You will be visiting all the main forts that are located outside the city where the first 3 spots are located nearby from one another. Hence, it is advisable to take a ride leaving the city first thing in the morning and get ready to walk throughout the journey right after leaving the car.
We took 30-minute Uber ride from downtown Jaipur to Panna Meena Ka Kund, the stepwell to satisfy your geometric and symmetric perfection. It can be a bit tricky to reach here by car as there was no road sign leading to this stepwell. So, do not hesitate asking for directions from the locals around. Rajasthan is a dry state with 60% of Thar Desert lies in its land mass where it is littered with stunning stepwells. Jaipur’s Panna Meena Ka Kund has no exception, it was designed in such a way that people could reach water at any level as the pool rises and falls. Being one of the most photogenic spots in Jaipur, be extra careful when ascending and descending the stairs as there are many monkeys living there.
Next, walk to Amber Fort where you can rely on Google Map by typing “Parking Lot (Amber Fort), Amer Road” like what we did. From Panna Meena Ka Kund and passing by few villages, expect to walk uphill for almost 1km before arriving the entrance of Amber Fort. Basically, there are 3 ways to reach the entrance of the fort, either by elephant ride, by car or by foot like what we did. You will enter the fort through Suraj Pol or Sun Gate if you reach the fort by foot or by elephant ride. However, if you arrive by car, you will enter the fort through Chand Pol or Moon Gate. Amber Fort was the residence of the Rajput Maharajas and their families. The most interesting part of the fort is Zenana or women's quarters at the rear end of the fort where it has many rooms for the king to keep each of his wives and visited them when he wished. Be mindful that Amber Fort is one of the most-visited sights in Jaipur, it was very crowded for my liking despite we went in the early morning.
From Amber Fort, look for the door pointing to an underground network of tunnels connecting both Amber Fort to Jaigarh Fort. It was exciting for us because not many people knew the existence of this secret passageway. Or many people chose to drive to the entrance of Jaigarh Fort instead of having a long walk. Impatiently to pass the crowd in Amber Fort, it was hard to believe that we were walking along the tunnel that was built in 18th century to protect the royal family in case of an attack. Slowly we ascended from the brightly lit tunnel approaching the opened passageway, Jaigarh Fort was not far away from our vision and it looked forbidding atop the hill. After 30 minutes, you will be arriving at the entrance of the Jaigarh Fort. Much quieter and atmospheric, Jaigarh Fort offers a great panoramic view of Amber Fort.
Located 6 km away, head to Nahargarh Fort by a tuk-tuk from Jaigarh Fort. As it is quite difficult getting a ride back from Nahargarh Fort to the city, do yourself a favour for not getting overcharged by hiring a tuk-tuk to wait for you outside the fort. Stands on the edge of the Aravalli Hills, Nahargarh literally means abode of tigers, it once formed a strong defence ring to the city. Despite the fort is scheduled to close at 5:30 pm, this does not apply to the walls outside the fort where you can have the best sunset view of the city.
On the way back to the city from Nahargarh Fort, take this opportunity to stop at Jal Mahal. Located in the middle of Man Sagar Lake, it was not built on an island as opposed to the popular belief. Rather it is a 5-storey palace of which the first four floors are submerged in the water. Surrounding there is a market selling jewelleries, souvenirs and snacks where the locals are hanging out over a sunset view.
Finally, it is time to leave Jaipur and head to the next destination. Consider visiting Jaisalmer directly from Jaipur as it is the furthest destination from Jaipur within the state. We took a 12-hour overnight train to Jaisalmer. Depending on your budget, we highly recommend taking First AC train to have a comfortable sleep throughout your journey.
Day 4: Arriving in Jaisalmer and glamping in the middle of Thar Desert
Picture this, a golden-yellow majestic fort that arises amid the yellow sandstone buildings in the middle of Thar Desert near the border of India-Pakistan. All these further enhanced by the golden rays of the sun. Hence, Jaisalmer is known as the Golden City. This mirage-like city of Jaisalmer is located at the westernmost part of Rajasthan, making it the furthest destination of all Rajasthan’s highlights from the state capital of Jaipur.
Staying in the middle of the desert and riding a camel are the top experiences people look for in Jaisalmer and we were no different when we came here. Hence, my advice is to allocate 3 nights of your trip by staying in Jaisalmer. We spent our first night in Jaisalmer by staying in Sam Sand Dunes, followed by remaining nights in the city limit of Jaisalmer.
After almost 12 hours of overnight train, we reached Jaisalmer Train Station and picked by our driver to Sam Sand Dunes. Located at the heart of Thar Desert, Sam Sand Dunes is located approximately 40 km away from downtown Jaisalmer. We stayed at Winds Desert Camp, situated at the edge of Sam Sand Dunes.
This camp situated in the Thar Desert was a dream, it was an unforgettable nomad experience with glamping amenities. The bed was comfortable, the tent has full bathroom with warm shower, outlets, and blankets. If you come in December to February like we did, remember to bring your sweater as it gets cold in the evening and in the early morning.
The main highlight of glamping in the middle of the desert is the camel safari in the evening. We were sent to the highest dune in the area, then assigned with one of the camels for Edmund and I. It was a magical moment when we had our camel riding over the expansive desert while the sun was setting.
Evening at the camp was memorable, we enjoyed the buffet dinner and evening bonfire with the cultural performances of Rajasthani folk songs and dances.
Day 5: Getting lost in the iconic Jaisalmer Fort in the middle of Jaisalmer
It was our last day at the camp, so we woke up before sunrise to witness another magical moment over the vast desert. After our early breakfast, we departed from the sand dunes to the city for another 2 nights where we stayed in Hotel Pleasant Haveli, a haveli-inspired hotel strategically located at the centre of all the action with a roof-top restaurant overlooking the city above it.
After we checked into the hotel, we were so excited to explore the city of Jaisalmer. We allocated our day 5 by walking within the iconic Jaisalmer Fort. The fort can be seen from almost anywhere in the city. It is important to understand that Jaisalmer Fort is not just a fort that you have ever been in anywhere in India. It is in fact a living fort that houses a living community of around 4000 inhabitants. With 460 m long and 230 m wide, the feeling that we had was as if we were walking inside the maze hoping to get surprised anytime. Through the edge of the fort, you can expect to have an epic view of the city.
While wandering through Jaisalmer Fort, it is not hard for you to come across the Maharaja’s Palace given its location at the fort’s main square. The topmost floor of this 5-storey structure is the highest point in Jaisalmer which offers the gorgeous view of the city surrounded by the desert.
We also came across the Jain Temples inside the fort which we did not get into as the temple is strict when it comes to the entry of non-devotees during specific hours. If you are interested, make sure arriving before 12 pm in order to visit this temple. Also, leather shoes are not permitted.
Day 6: Discovering the hidden gems of Jaisalmer
We got up early in the morning and we were walking around the streets and narrow lanes of the city. It seemed to us that the animal population in Jaisalmer was much higher than elsewhere, particularly stray cows. Although this scene might look strange to us, it is a common sight to see wandering cows along the narrow alleyways in India. Beware of those cows, Edmund was headbutted by one of the stray cows despite we avoided them most of the time.
We walked for almost 2 km to arrive Gadi Sagar Lake, also known as Gadisar Lake. It was a lovely and quiet early morning stroll we had. You are bound to spot a number of migratory birds, especially during winter months. The beauty of this lake is further enhanced by the lovely temples and chhatris surrounding it.
Heading back to the town where there are several havelis worth visiting. Patwon Ki Haveli possibly the finest in town with beautiful murals and carved pillars. It is a cluster of 5 havelis built by a wealthy merchant to all his 5 sons. A trip to Jaisalmer is incomplete without witnessing a flavour of the intricate craftsmanship of this haveli.
Do not forget to visit its smaller counterparts which are located not far away – Nathmal Ki Haveli and Salim Singh Ki Haveli.
If you have time, do not forget to include your sunset trip to Vyas Chhatri, which we did not as we were wandering around Jaisalmer Fort again on our last day in Jaisalmer. Due to its location is slightly further from town, you can catch a tuk-tuk on the streets or arrange a cab with your hotel. A well-known sunset point in Jaisalmer, Vyas Chhatri will amaze you when the sun’s rays in the evening further enhance the fine details of these chhatris.
Day 7: Arriving and immersing yourself with the sounds, smells and sights of Jodhpur
The second largest city in the state of Rajasthan, Jodhpur is still located at the edge of Thar Desert. Thanks to the buildings are mostly blue, Jodhpur is popularly known as the Blue City of India. Even more stunning when the old city circles a huge mountain of stone crowned with the mighty Mehrangarh Fort towering over the skyline. While Jodhpur overall is a great city with the best fort in India and fun alleyways to walk around, we found that it has lesser things to do as compared to both Jaipur and Jaisalmer. Hence, I recommend not to allocate more than 3 days 2 nights in Jodhpur.
Situated at the midpoint between Jaisalmer and Jaipur, it took us 6 hours train ride to arrive Jodhpur from Jaisalmer. It was not apparent to us why this city is so closely associated with just one colour once we reached the train station until we were approaching the old city. We stayed in Suraj Haveli, another haveli-inspired small hotel strategically located in the old city with a sun terrace offering a stunning view of the mountain and Mehrangarh Fort.
Not far from our hotel lies a stepwell called Toorji Ka Jhalra. Not as stunning as the stepwell we went in Jaipur, here we saw plenty of local kids jumping in the pool from the topmost of the stepwell. The Stepwell Cafe sits at the top of the stepwell was a great place for a refreshing drink while watching all the actions from the jumping kids.
Few blocks away stretches the city's vibrant commercial life, Sardar Market is the best place for you find the sounds, smells and sights of a truly local Jodhpur experience even if you do not plan to purchase anything. Its grid of narrow streets stuffed full of every conceivable type of merchandise, from electrical goods to rare species. Given its madness if you can stand the crowds and noise, many of the streets are given order to specific items, with one street devoted to sell leather goods, another to household wares, and so on. In the middle of the market stands the Clock Tower, where your reward at the top is the incredible 360-degree view of the lively market.
Our day 7 was a light one as it took us half day of the train journey from Jaisalmer. So, we ended our day earlier by having dinner in one of the rooftop restaurants in the old city. It was an unforgettable moment when we were dining with the view of Mehrangarh Fort and the old city, not to mention sipping a cup of hot masala tea while enjoying the winter breeze of January.
Day 8: Exploring Jodhpur’s mighty Mehrangarh Fort and wandering around the Blue City
Star your day 8 earlier by visiting the mighty Mehrangarh Fort. It is the largest fort that we have been in Rajasthan, so expect to spend half of your day here. An iconic sight sitting on a rocky cliff, this man-made structure can be seen from almost anywhere within the old city of Jodhpur, making it almost impossible to get it missed. Our suggestion is taking a tuk-tuk from your hotel to Mehrangarh Fort to save your energy throughout the day as you will be getting lost around the blue city right after visiting Mehrangarh Fort. The fort is the most well-preserved tourist spot that we visited in Rajasthan, hence it was worth the entrance fee of INR 600 for a foreign tourist. You will also be given an audio guide to understand further about the fort. Other than being amazed by the intricate craftsmanship displayed by the fort, we enjoyed seeing the houses in different shades of blue from the fort.
From Mehrangarh Fort, you can see clearly how blue the city is. During the planning of our Rajasthan trip, I insisted to Edmund that Jodhpur must be included in our 10-day itinerary as blue is my favourite colour. I have been knowing the fact that there are few blue cities in the world with Jodhpur is one of it. So, I did my thorough research hoping to find the bluest part of the city and eventually decided that the neighbourhood called Chandpole can offer the bluest shade of all. After several hours in Mehrangarh Fort, we walked to Chandpole neighbourhood through the rear entrance of the fort. Hands down, the decision to pick Chandpole was the right decision. We enjoyed wandering aimlessly through the narrow streets and alleys covered in different shades of blue.